As a child I had always wanted to be a children’s nurse or a nanny, and it turned out that I could be neither, because although I took 8 subjects at ‘O’ level, I only passed in one….Art.
Nobody at that time suggested that I might try going to art school, and not knowing what to do about the catastrophe of failing seven ‘O’ levels I went to do a Pitman’s Secretarial Course which my Mum paid for. I went and did some unrelated jobs such as mushroom picking, waitressing and working at Chichester Festival Theatre – very exciting. One year that I was there was the year that Sir Laurence Olivier played Othello, and crowds came every night to try and get tickets to see him. Being part of an enterprising group of friends, we made some extra money by sleeping outside the theatre all night for tickets. It was no hardship, the nights were warm, and my Mum would come by at about midnight with fresh coffee and sandwiches for all of us. At ten o’clock in the morning we would buy our two tickets each and pass them on to the people who had asked us to sleep outside for them, and collect our fee ….£2 each.!
However, the hot summer days of 1964 became colder and I went to train as a medical secretary at a hospital in Chichester, but not being able to see much of the patients and not being able to read the consultants’ writing, I left the following summer and spent another lovely and exciting season at the Chichester Festival Theatre. When that summer ended I really did have to look for a “proper job”. Quite unbelievably with my one “O” Level I managed to get into the BBC, and within only a year was training to become a Production Assistant. It was exciting work and I loved being with so many people all working towards one thing – to make good productions for television.
At the BBC I met my husband – Paul Joel, who was a Production Designer. We married in 1967, and in 1971, I left the crazy and wonderful world of television for the even crazier and more wonderful world of being a Mum! Then I began to paint. We all painted! We watched Blue Peter and used sticky back plastic tape and washing up containers to make space ships and create imagined worlds. We collected dried up leaves in the Autumn to stick onto Autumn pictures: spread cotton wool onto winter pictures: experimented with creative things of all kinds. Soon the children would tire of painting and go off roller booting or climbing trees and I was still enjoying the simple fun of painting.
Some time, when the children were about 12 and 15, a gallery owner in Notting Hill Gate asked to see my paintings and then bought all of them from me for an exhibition the following Autumn. Six months later my whole family was gathered to the preview and were amazed that all the pictures were smartly framed and very expensive! My Mum who was staying with us at the time, but not well enough to go, had given me a cheque for £75 to buy a small picture, because she thought it would be nice if I could sell just one. However, the £75 would not have bought even the tiniest painting, but her cheque was not needed – the paintings sold anyway despite their high prices. That was in 1986, and in 1989 I held my first exhibition at the Boathouse Gallery in Walton. My Mum had just died, and she had been with me whilst we were planning it, and it was lovely to see her enthusiasm. She, like me, had always been involved with us all as children and encouraged our artistic pursuits, and as a tribute to her, ever since she died, I have always painted in the white haired figure of my Mum “Katie” with a dog in every painting.
Painting has always been a joy for me, and I paint best when I am happy and not cluttered with worries. If I get deeply involved in a painting I find it very hard to go to bed and somehow tiredness stays away until I feel the picture is wanting a rest too. I have often stayed up until very late at night painting. Sometimes I paint what I see outside in the open. Sometimes I paint from photographs at home, and sometimes I paint out of my imagination, and that can be anywhere. Sunshine inspires me – I like to be warm. Either outside when the sun is shining, or inside with the coal fire where it is nice and cosy.
My husband – Paul – has now left the BBC and enjoys the usual hectic retirement, which seems to keep him just as busy as working on films on location used to. Our son Tim, is now 37 and after all of his travels and education and odd jobs along the way, he has now discovered painting and is living in Taiwan, painting. He has had many exhibitions and has had a book published in Taiwan about himself, his paintings, poems, photography and travels.
Our daughter , Bethany, now 34, also shows great artistic flare, and makes beautiful silk paintings, designs wedding stationery and also is a teaching assistant at a boys school in Richmond on Thames. She and her husband have a nine year old son called Luke and a seven year old son called Dylan. No doubt in time they will be just as creative as she is.
Courtesy of the artist’s website.